Hans Sloane

Sir Hans Sloane, 1st Baronet PRS FRS (16 April 1660 – 11 January 1753), was an Irish physician, naturalist and collector noted for bequeathing his collection of 71,000 items to the British nation, thus providing the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum, London.[2] He was elected to the Royal Society at the age of 24.[3] Sloane traveled to the Caribbean in 1687 and documented his travels and findings with extensive publishings years later. Sloane was a renowned medical doctor among the aristocracy and was elected to the Royal College of Physicians by age 27.[4] He is credited with creating drinking chocolate.[5]

Sir Hans Sloane

Sir Hans Sloane
Born(1660-04-16)16 April 1660
Died11 January 1753(1753-01-11) (aged 92)
Resting placeChelsea Old Church
Known forPhysician
Chelsea Physic Garden
British Museum[1]
President of the Royal Society
Sloane Square
Sloane's drinking chocolate
Spouse(s)Elisabeth Sloane (née Langley)
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society (1685)

His name was later used for streets and places such as Hans Place, Hans Crescent, and Sloane Square in and around Chelsea, London – the area of his final residence – and also for Sir Hans Sloane Square in his birthplace in Ireland, Killyleagh.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

Early life

Sloane was born into an Ulster-Scots family on 16 April 1660 at Killyleagh, a village on the south-western shores of Strangford Lough in County Down in Ulster, the northern province in Ireland. He was the seventh son of Alexander Sloane (died 1666), agent for The 1st Earl of Clanbrassil (c. 1618–1659), and brother to James Sloane, MP (1655–1704).[13] Sloane's family had migrated from Ayrshire, in the south-west of Scotland, but settled in east Ulster under King James VI and I. His father died when he was six years old.

As a youth, Sloane collected objects of natural history and other curiosities. This led him to the study of medicine, which he did in London, where he studied botany, materia medica, surgery and pharmacy. His collecting habits made him useful to John Ray and Robert Boyle. After four years in London he travelled through France, spending some time at Paris and Montpellier, and stayed long enough at the University of Orange-Nassau[1] to take his MD degree there in 1683. He returned to London with a considerable collection of plants and other curiosities, of which the former were sent to Ray and utilised by him for his History of Plants.

Voyage to the Caribbean and the creation of chocolate milk

Sloane was elected to the Royal Society in 1685.[14] In 1687, he became a fellow of the College of Physicians, and the same year went to Jamaica aboard HMS Assistance as personal physician to the new Governor of Jamaica, The 2nd Duke of Albemarle.[14] Jamaica was fast emerging as a source of immense profit to British merchants based on the cultivation of sugar and other crops by the slave labor of West Africans—many from the Akan and other peoples of the regions which the English entitled the Gold and Slave Coasts. During his time in the Caribbean, Sloane visited several islands[15] and collected numerous plant specimens as well as large supplies of cacao[2] and Peruvian bark which he would later use for making quinine to treat eye ailments.[16]

Albemarle died in Jamaica the next year, so Sloane's visit lasted only fifteen months. During that time he noted about 800 new species of plants, which he catalogued in Latin in 1696; he later wrote of his visit in two lavishly illustrated folio volumes.[14][17]

  • A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica. Vol. 1. Sloane. 1707.
  • A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, St Christophers and Jamaica. Vol. 2. Sloane. 1725.

In 1707 Sloane listed the variety of punishments inflicted on slaves in Jamaica. For rebellion, slaves were usually punished "by nailing them down to the ground... and then applying the fire by degrees from the feet and hands, burning them gradually up to the head, whereby their pains are extravagant." For lesser crimes, castration or mutilation ("chopping off half the foot") was the norm. And as for negligence, slaves "are usually whipt... after they are whipt till they are raw, some put on their skins pepper and salt to make them smart; at other times their masters will drip melted wax on their skins, and use very exquisite torments." [18]

Sloane married Elizabeth Langley Rose, the widow of Fulke Rose of Jamaica, and daughter of Alderman John Langley; she was a wealthy heiress of sugar plantations in Jamaica worked by slaves.[4][19] They had three daughters, Mary, Sarah and Elizabeth,[lower-alpha 1] and one son, Hans. Of the four children, only Sarah and Elizabeth survived infancy.[20] Sarah married George Stanley of Paultons and Elizabeth married Charles Cadogan, the future Second Baron Cadogan. Income from the sugar produced by enslaved African laborers on Elizabeth's plantations at an area known as Sixteen Mile Walk fed the family fortunes in London and, together with Sloane's medical revenue and London property investments, gave him the wealth to collect on a vast scale.[21]

Sloane encountered cacao while he was in Jamaica, where the locals drank it mixed with water, though he is reported to have found it nauseating. Many recipes for mixing chocolate with spice, eggs, sugar and milk were in circulation by the seventeenth century. Sloane may have devised his own recipe for mixing chocolate with milk, though if so, he was probably not the first. (Some sources credit Daniel Peter as the inventor in 1875, using condensed milk; other sources point out that milk was added to chocolate centuries earlier in some countries.)[22] Nonetheless, the Natural History Museum lists Sloane as the inventor of that concoction.[23]

By the 1750s, a Soho grocer named Nicholas Sanders claimed to be selling Sloane's recipe as a medicinal elixir, perhaps making "Sir Hans Sloane's Milk Chocolate" the first brand-name milk chocolate drink. By the nineteenth century, the Cadbury Brothers sold tins of drinking chocolate whose trade cards also invoked Sloane's recipe.[24][25]

Society physician

After studying medicine and botany in London, Paris and Montpellier, Sloane graduated from the University of Orange in 1684 as an MD and moved to London to practice; he was hired as an assistant to prominent physician Thomas Sydenham who gave the young man valuable introductions to practice.[2]

In his own practice, started in 1689 at 3 Bloomsbury Place, London,[19] Sloan worked among the upper classes where he was viewed as fashionable; he built a large practice which became lucrative. The physician served three successive sovereigns, Queen Anne, George I, and George II.

There was some criticism of Sloane during his lifetime as a mere 'virtuoso', an undiscriminating collector who lacked understanding of scientific principles.[26] One critic stated that he was merely interested in the collection of knick knacks while another called him the "foremost toyman of his time".[27] Sir Isaac Newton described Sloane as "a very tricking fellow". Some believed that his true achievement was in making friends in high society and with important political figures and not in science.[4] Even as a physician, he did not get a great deal of respect being seen as primarily a seller of medications and a collector of curios. In truth, Sloane's only medical publication, an Account of a Medicine for Soreness, Weakness and other Distempers of the Eyes (London, 1745), was not published until its author was in his eighty-fifth year and had retired from practice.[28]

In 1716 Sloane was created a baronet, making him the first medical practitioner to receive a hereditary title. In 1719 he became president of the Royal College of Physicians, holding the office for sixteen years. In 1722 he was appointed physician-general to the army, and in 1727 first physician to George II.

He was elected president of Royal College of Physicians in 1719 and served in that role until 1735.[15] He became secretary to the Royal Society in 1693,[29] and edited the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society for twenty years. In 1727, he succeeded Sir Isaac Newton as president. He retired from the Society at the age of eighty.[19]

Charity work

Sloane helped out at the Christ’s Hospital from 1694 to 1730 and donated his salary back to that institution. He also supported the Royal College of Physicians' dispensary of inexpensive medications and operated a free surgery every morning.[30]

He was a founding governor of London's Foundling Hospital, the nation's first institution to care for abandoned children. Inoculation against smallpox was required for all children in its care; Sloane was one of the physicians during that era to promote inoculation as a method to prevent smallpox, using it on his own family and promoting it to the royals.[31][16]

The British Museum and Chelsea Physic Garden

Sloane's fame is based on his judicious investments rather than what he contributed to the subject of natural science or even of his own profession. During his life, Sloane was a correspondent of the French Académie Royale des Sciences and was named foreign associate in 1709, in addition to being a foreign member of the academies of science in Prussia, St. Petersburg, Madrid and Göttingen.[16] His purchase of the manor of Chelsea, London, in 1712, provided the grounds for the Chelsea Physic Garden.

Over his lifetime, Sloane collected over 71,000 objects: books, manuscripts, drawings, coins and medals, plant specimens and others.[20] His great stroke as a collector was to acquire in 1702 (by bequest, conditional on paying of certain debts) the cabinet of curiosities owned by William Courten, who had made collecting the business of his life.[32][33]

When Sloane retired in 1741, his library and cabinet of curiosities, which he took with him from Bloomsbury to his house in Chelsea, had grown to be of unique value. He had acquired the extensive natural history collections of William Courten, Cardinal Filippo Antonio Gualterio, James Petiver, Nehemiah Grew, Leonard Plukenet, the Duchess of Beaufort, the rev. Adam Buddle, Paul Hermann, Franz Kiggelaer and Herman Boerhaave.

On his death he bequeathed[1] his books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, flora, fauna, medals, coins, seals, cameos and other curiosities to the nation, on condition that parliament should pay his executors £20,000, far less than the value of the collection, estimated at £80,000 or greater by some sources and at over £50,000 by others.[16][34] The bequest was accepted on those terms by an act passed the same year, and the collection, together with George II's royal library, and other objects.[19] A significant proportion of this collection was later to become the foundation for the Natural History Museum.

He also gave the Apothecaries' Company the land of the Chelsea Physic Garden which they had rented from the Chelsea estate since 1673.[35]


In his final year, Sir Hans Sloane suffered from a disorder with some paralysis.[16] He died on the afternoon of 11 January 1753 at the Manor House, Chelsea, and was buried on 18 January[36] in the south-east corner of the churchyard at Chelsea Old Church with the following memorial:

To the memory of SIR HANS SLOANE BART President of the Royal Society, and of the College of Physicians; who in the year of our Lord 1753, the 92d of his age, without the least pain of body and with a conscious serenity of mind, ended a virtuous and beneficent life. This monument was erected by his two daughters ELIZA CADOGAN and SARAH STANLEY


His grave is shared with his wife Elisabeth[lower-alpha 2] who died in 1724.

Places named after Sloane

Sloane Square, Sloane Street, Sloane Avenue, Sloane Grammar School[37] and Sloane Gardens in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are named after Sir Hans. His first name is given to Hans Street, Hans Crescent, Hans Place and Hans Road, all of which are also situated in the Royal Borough.[20]

Plants and animals named after Sloane

See also


  1. 1695 – 20 May 1768
  2. Died 17 September 1724


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  2. "The Irishman who 'invented' milk chocolate, and served the royal family". The Irish Times.
  3. MacGregor, Arthur. "Sloane, Sir Hans, baronet", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September 2004. Accessed 25 October 2018.
  4. "The Man Whose Cabinet of Curios Helped Start the British Museum". The New York Times.
  5. "Chocolate Milk Was Invented in Jamaica".
  6. Ford, J. M. (2003). "Medical Memorial. Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753)". Journal of Medical Biography. 11 (3): 180. doi:10.1177/096777200301100314. PMID 12870044.
  7. McIntyre, N. (2001). "Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753)". Journal of Medical Biography. 9 (4): 235. doi:10.1177/096777200100900409. PMID 11718127.
  8. Dunn, P. M. (2001). "Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) and the value of breast milk". Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 85 (1): F73–F74. doi:10.1136/fn.85.1.F73. PMC 1721277. PMID 11420330.
  9. Ravin, J. G. (2000). "Sir Hans Sloane's contributions to ocular therapy, scientific journalism, and the creation of the British Museum". Archives of Ophthalmology. 118 (11): 1567–1573. doi:10.1001/archopht.118.11.1567. PMID 11074814.
  10. Mason, A. S. (1993). "Hans Sloane and his friends. The FitzPatrick Lecture 1993". Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London. 27 (4): 450–455. PMC 5396686. PMID 8289170.
  11. Nelson, E. C. (1992). "Charles Lucas' letter (1736) to Sir Hans Sloane about the natural history of the Burren, County Clare". Journal of the Irish Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons. 21 (2): 126–131. PMID 11616186.
  12. Ober, W. B. (1968). "Sir Hans Sloane, M.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.S. (1660-1753) and the British Museum". New York State Journal of Medicine. 68 (11): 1422–1430. PMID 4872002.
  13. Hayton, David. "The House of Commons, 1690–1715, Volume 3".
  14. Carter, Harold B. (July 1995). "The Royal Society and the Voyage of HMS Endeavour 1768-71". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 49 (2): 245–260. doi:10.1098/rsnr.1995.0026. JSTOR 532013.
  15. "Sir Hans Sloane, Baronet - British physician".
  16. "Introducing Sir Hans Sloane – the Sloane Letters Project".
  17. "Sir Hans Sloane, Baronet | British physician". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  18. Bakan, Abigail (1990). Ideology and Class Conflict in Jamaica: The Politics of Rebellion. Montreal. p. 22.
  19. "British Museum - Sir Hans Sloane". www.britishmuseum.org.
  20. "Elisabeth Langley Rose - Exploring London". exploring-london.com.
  21. Brooks 1954.
  22. Mintz, Sidney (2015). The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford University Press. p. 524. ISBN 9780199313396 via Google Books.
  23. Eveleth, Rose. "Chocolate Milk Was Invented in Jamaica".
  24. Delbourgo, James (2011). "Sir Hans Sloane's Milk Chocolate and the Whole History of the Cacao". Social Text.
  25. "About Sir Hans Sloane". The Natural History Museum. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  26. Taylor, Barry. "Sir Hans Sloane, scientist". www.bl.uk.
  27. Hughes, Kathryn (16 June 2017). "Collecting the World by James Delbourgo review – Hans Sloane's 'nicknackatory' and the founding of the British Museum". The Guardian.
  28. "Sir Hans Sloane, Scientist" (PDF). Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  29. "The life and curiosity of Sir Hans Sloane". The Economist. 8 June 2017. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  30. "Introducing Sir Hans Sloane – The Sloane Letters Project". sloaneletters.com.
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  32. Kusukawa, Sachiko (2016). "William Courten's lists of 'Things Bought' from the late seventeenth century". Journal of the History of Collections: fhv040. doi:10.1093/jhc/fhv040. ISSN 0954-6650.
  33. Walmsley, Peter (2003). Locke's Essay and the Rhetoric of Science. Bucknell University Press. pp. 160–. ISBN 978-0-8387-5543-3.
  34. "Sir Hans Sloane's Will of 1739 – The Sloane Letters Project". sloaneletters.com.
  35. Historic England. "CHELSEA PHYSIC GARDEN, Kensington and Chelsea (1000147)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  36. Preston 1854, p. 13-.
  37. Ex Student
  38. Beolens, Watkins & Grayson 2011, p. 246.
  39. "Sloane's Viperfish". britishseafishing.co.uk. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  40. IPNI.  Sloane.


Further reading

Baronetage of Great Britain
Preceded by
New creation
(of Chelsea)

1716 – 1753
Succeeded by
Title extinct
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Sir Isaac Newton
President of the Royal Society
1727 – 1741
Succeeded by
Martin Folkes
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Bateman
President of Royal College of Physicians
1719 – 1735
Succeeded by
Thomas Pellett
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